1005035716 Wellington.jpg
Photo courtesy of David Calahan

Greeley Wells captures the beauty of Wellington Butte during filming of the documentary “Saving Wellington."

Saving the Wellington Wildlands

APPLEGATE — “Saving Wellington,” a 16-minute documentary that highlights reasons to preserve more than 7,500 acres of undisturbed wildlands controlled by the Bureau of Land Management between Applegate and Ruch, recently had its first showings.

“My intent was to show and accent the beauty. I’d love to see this not turn into a BLM timber sale,” said Greeley Wells, who collaborated with Ed Keller to produce the film. The piece shows the Wellington Butte area with its scenic views and wildlands characteristics.

The land lies north of Highway 238 between China Gulch and Humbug Creek. Most of the area is south facing, and the butte can be seen from the highway. The area was a candidate for preservation consideration, but that was rejected earlier in the decade by BLM.

The first public showing was at Red Lily Vineyards, which has views of Wellington Butte. On Nov. 3, the documentary was shown in the Jacksonville library. A Dec. 14 showing in Ashland will be held at 5 p.m. at the Headwaters Building, 84 Fourth St.

About five months were spent producing the film, said Wells said, who has lived in the Applegate for 20 years and was on the first board of the Applegate Partnership.

David Calahan, chair of the Applegate Trails Association, and Luke Ruediger with Applegate Neighbors Network, were filmed in front of a green screen giving narration, which was then inserted into the film. They also appear in live shots.

“We followed both of them talking to a small group that was walking down the trail,” said Wells. “They discuss and point to all the elements here we are talking about.”

Drones were used to shoot portions of the video. Wells and Keller worked from a trail on top of the ridge. The lower area with old growth is less accessible.

“You’d pretty much have to spend a day hiking to get into those forests,” said Wells. “That would be another trip.”

Wells has been an artist for 50 of his 75 years. Until 10 years ago, he worked in drawing, prints and still photographs. His first video experience with an iPhone 10 years ago immediately switched his focus to full-color with sound and motion.

Collaborator Keller had worked in film and video for more than 20 years in Ashland. He served as the editor and director, while Wells concentrated on the images. The pair plan to enter their creation in environmental film festivals. They financed the film with their own money.

The size of Wellington so near to major population areas is unique, said Calahan. His group is working to create the Applegate Ridge Trail, a route linking Jacksonville to Grants Pass. A road put in illegally by a miner decades ago has now become the Heart Trail, which follows the ridgeline. Much of the Wellington Wildlands is brush and manzanita, but there are about 300 acres of low-elevation old-growth trees. It’s home to bear, cougar, deer and other wildlife.

Calahan says it’s uncertain why the area didn’t get logged earlier in the last century. He speculates that a 1931 fire that swept through the area may have been a reason. A 2001 timber sale included part of Wellington but got no takers, likely because of need for new roads and helicopter logging, among other concerns, Calahan said.

In 2011, BLM identified the 5,711-acre Wellington Wildlands as having wilderness characteristics and began studies. But a 2016 BLM Final Resource Management Plan did not recommend special protection for the area. A bill by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden in 2013 proposed Wellington Wildlands as a Primitive Backcountry Area in legislation related to O&C lands. The measure did not pass.

BLM representative Maria Thi Mai said the Middle Applegate Sale, which would include Wellington, has been put on hold as the agency reprioritizes projects and balances those with staffing. She said plans are to conduct a sale at a later date.

More information about Wellington and the film can be found at applegaterogue.org and www.applegateneighborhood.network.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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